Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Perceptions of Effective Relationships in an Institutional Care Setting for Older People

Academic journal article SA Journal of Industrial Psychology

Perceptions of Effective Relationships in an Institutional Care Setting for Older People

Article excerpt


Effective relationships are reciprocal caring, warm, satisfying and trusting and enable people to maintain relative comfort, security and freedom from anxiety (Brownie & Hortsmanshof, 2012; Ryff & Singer, 1998; Smith-Acuña, 2011; Vorster, Roos & Beukes, 2013). People in satisfying relationships are able to express and address their own needs as well as those of the relationship (Smith-Acuña, 2011). Research indicates that effective relationships can combat emotional and social loneliness, which contribute to depression in old age (Brownie & Hortsmanshof, 2012; Taube, Kristensson, Midlov, Holst & Jakobsson, 2013).

In contrast, people with less successful relationships reported feeling distanced, discontented, blamed and disconnected (Smith-Acuña, 2011; Vorster et al., 2013). According to Fromm (1985), the experience of disconnectedness is a source of intense anxiety, which Vorster et al. (2013) found to contribute to psychological discomfort. Although this study focused on the relational perceptions of older people in an institutional residential setting, it is also relevant to organisations in which members are continuously interacting with one another and with those in leadership positions. Effective relationships have been found to be directly related to older people's quality of life (Brownie & Horstmanshof, 2012; Van Biljon & Roos, 2012). Effective relationships are therefore important for mental health, particularly in an institutional setting, because people spend a large part of their lives in an organised setting, albeit in different positions and in different roles (Kitching, Roos & Ferreira, 2012; Smith-Acuña, 2011). It is thus helpful to determine what people regard as effective relationships in an institutional setting.

Research purpose and objectives

Theorists and practitioners recognise the importance of relationships in promoting mental health, wellness or well-being in an institutional setting, but little is known about relationships that are perceived as effective. Based on the preceding presentation of the problem, this study therefore set out to explore what older people perceived as effective relationships in an institutional residential setting.

Literature review

The purpose of this research was to elicit the perceptions of older people about effective relationships in an institutional residential setting by means of positively framed questions. Research into relationships in settings for older people generally focuses on what is not working or what is problematic (Anthony, Suchman, & Penelope, 2011; Grenade & Boldy, 2008). Studies have found that older people in organised care institutions typically experience depression and loneliness (Grenade & Boldy, 2008; Roos & Malan, 2012; Shabangu & Roos, 2012; Taube et al., 2013; Victor, Scambler & Bond, 2009). Older people tend to reminisce about relationships that have ended as a result of different kinds of losses: relational losses, the loss of activities they had engaged in previously or environmental changes (Lalive d'Epinay, Cavalli & Spini, 2003; Roos & De Jager, 2010; Roos & Klopper, 2010; Roos & Malan, 2012). Research conducted in South Africa confirms that relationships in institutional settings for older people can contribute to unhealthy group dynamics, isolation and rejection (Roos & Malan, 2012; Roos & Nel, 2010; Shabangu & Roos, 2012).

For the purposes of this study, relationships are regarded as the continuous, reciprocal verbal and non-verbal interactions between people (Hargie, 2011; Smith-Acuña, 2011; Suchman, 2006; Watzlawick, Bavelas & Jackson, 2011). These interactions consist of subjective experiences (impact) on an intrapersonal level and reactions on an inter-individual level. The interactions take place in a particular interpersonal context, embedded in broader environments (Roos, in press; Vorster et al. …

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